Shakespeare in his play Othello depicts
how women in the 15th century are
regarded by society and their expectations.
What were the roles that
women played in Othello?
They were portrayed to society as:
•Being loyal to their husbands
•Doing what they
were told
What were the roles that
women played in Othello?
•Were seen as sex objects
•Not going
against their
judgements or
These roles of women are displayed through the
characters of
•Bianca -,
•representing three characteristics on how women
were recognised by :
•The various levels of class
•Desdemona is from the higher classes ,
re3presenting women of rank and privilege
daughter of
•A symbol of innocence ,- impartial viewes of
*Emilia represents the middle class women
* Bianca representing women of the Lower classes
(her role known to us today as a prostitute)
Mistress to
Lady in
waiting of
Iago – attitude to women clearly arrogant, as he considered them of
the inferior sex
The inferiority Iago had towards women was reverted towards
Desdemona and Emilia
He expressed his views to women as merely sexual objects : there to
satisfy mans desires
“You rise to play/ And go to bed to work”
This shows the sexism against women at this time. Iago
condescendingly treats all women even his own wife as possessions,
complaining about the flaws that all women have.
Iago claiming that women fool around all day and only work hard
in bed
It was said that women had to do what they were told
by the men as they were the inferior sex.
Desdemona followed the marital roles of a women,
Went against her fathers and societies expectations
> not seeking permission from her father- marrying
> Threat posed to male authority- tearing away from
Venetian patriarchal society
Emilia believes that a woman's role amongst scoiety
and their duties to men are not to be slaves as she is
from the middle class
This shown as Emilia questions men: referring to Iago
“But I do think it Is their husbands faults. If wives to
fall. Say that they slack their duties ,/ And poor our
treasures into foreign laps :/ Or else break out in
peevish jealousies ,/ Throwing restraint upon us : or
say they strike us ,/ Or scant our former having in
despite:/ What we have galls: and though we have some
grace,/ yet we some revenge…”
The virtue of a women was important to men in Othello
Virtue is defined as the quality of doing what is right ,
avoiding what is wrong.
Othello it also meant ‘purity’ and ‘perfection’ of a woman
Due to women being used as sexual objects , men
would not want to marry a women who was not
‘pure’ – unfaithful
Men in society would refer to women as
unfaithful when she has had a sexual relation
with another man.
Often referring to women as “Whores”
“ I took you for the cunning whore of Venice”
Desdemona despite what
Othello had claimed her to
have done was very loyal
to her husband, hiding her
true self , as she knew it
was not a women's right
that women should argue
with there husband.
•The Elizabethan era was a time
associated with Queen Elizabeth 1’s
reign (1558-1603) and often is
considered the ‘golden age in English
•The Elizabethans had clear
expectations of men and
•Men – expected to be
•Women – housewives / mothers
> The Elizabethan society was patriarchal, this
meant that men were considered to be the leaders and
women their inferiors
During the years (1558-1603) there were may things
women couldn’t do, they were:
• attend school (private tutor)
•enter the professions of (law, medicine , politics) but
were allowed to work in domestic services (cooks,
• not vote regardless of social position
• not inherit fathers titles
> Men opposed to women had many more rights
•Evidently displayed throughout Othello men
were seen as the superior sex
•They could marry who ever they wanted ,
•Women had no say to who they married
•They could get an education
It is seen throughout society today that there is
an equality amongst men and women
•Women are allowed to vote
•Get an education
•Not perceived as sex objects
•Housewives/ maids